Setting Up A Free WordPress Blog – What’s Your Look?

Welcome back to Setting Up A WordPress Blog. If you’re new to this series or if you’d like a review, you can read Setting Up A Free WordPress Blog in 4 Easy Steps here.

Today, I want to talk about your blog theme. By that, I mean the way it looks.

One of the purposes of a blog is to establish who you are in the minds of your visitors. The very first impression a visitor has of you–through your blog’s look–should support the message you want to promote; your brand, if you will.

Like it or not, most people will decide whether or not your blog is important to them within just a few seconds of seeing it. Readers will decide to read or not to read based on the theme you choose and how well it matches their expectations.

So the theme you chose is important. To show you how important, let’s take a look at some of the blog themes I considered for Carrie Lynn Lewis, Author.

Theme Number 1: Misty Lake

This is a simple, easy-to-navigate design with a decent number of customizations. I’d been using it on my self-hosted art blog for some time and liked the way it looked, so it was an easy first choice in the set up stage. I had to have something, after all. Why not a theme with which I was already familiar? All I had to do was find a header image I liked.

Since I’m writing this series in May and since I walk almost every day and take pictures some of those days, I gravitated toward pictures taken during a recent walk. The combination of Red Bud in the foreground and decorative Pear in the background seemed ideal. It suited the default colors of the theme. It was a pleasant image.

What’s more, it looked fabulous on the blog, as you can see from this screen shot.

There was one problem.

I write a mix of political thriller/mystery/suspense with a healthy dose of Old Testament prophecy. In other words, end times. The image above just does not say “political thriller” or “mystery” or “suspense. Forget “end times.”

If anything, a visitor might expect to find an author writing sweet, Southern Bell type romances. (So says Danielle, anyway.)

So I removed the Red Buds and went back to the default header image, shown below.
Blog Theme Misty Lake

Danielle’s response?

Okay. Western romance.

Ugh!

Next!

Theme Number 2: Bushwick

Here’s a theme I loved the moment I saw it. The image conveys the message I want to convey. The layout is gorgeous. The whole thing appealed to my writing and artistic sides immediately. I thought I’d found exactly the right theme.
Blog Theme Bushwick without menu

You no doubt heard a great, big “but” in the previous paragraph.

The “but” is shown above.

This theme doesn’t have a menu bar at the top. At least not one that’s visible.

The menu bar is concealed. You access it by clicking on the image of three horizontal bars on at the top right (see the previous image). The menu then appears, as shown below.

Blog Theme Bushwick with menu

This may not be a big deal to most people. In fact, Danielle told me she had no trouble figuring out where the menu was or how to access it.

But I’m a generation or two ahead of Danielle and it did take me a few minutes to find the menu. No, it wasn’t much time but it was enough to make me rethink this theme.

If your readership is likely to be younger people, Millennials or younger, this most likely won’t be a problem. Even if your readership isn’t primarily younger generations, it may not be a problem.

But it was for me, so I kept looking.

Theme Number 3: Greyzed

This theme is much, MUCH closer to the mark for the type of novels I’m writing. I think most of you would agree that the overall perception is of dark, perilous times. The background is excellent and I liked the lined-paper look of the area where posts appear because I do a lot of writing long-hand.
Blog Theme Greyzed

I had a significant problem. Every time I looked at it, I saw the old theme for Joel C. Rosenberg’s blog. I love his books and follow his blog via RSS, but I didn’t want to use the same theme, no matter how much I liked it.

Since the customization options were limited, I decided against this theme.

Theme Number 4: Hemingway

I finally decided on this theme, Hemingway. It’s a simple layout in black and white with a nice, big header image, an easy-to-navigate menu bar and side bar, and with a lot of room for customization. Once I found a header image and color scheme (I changed the color of my name), it was just about perfect.

And it said everything I wanted the blog to say about the type of novels I write.
Blog Theme Hemingway

What If I Don’t Like What I Choose

Not to worry. You can change themes as often as you like. When you log into your WordPress account, you land on a page that looks like this.

Click on the “Change Theme” link and browse themes again.

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend two or three hours sorting through themes, like I did. It just so happens, I find this process very satisfying to my creative side, so it’s a nice break from writing and painting.

But I encourage you to review the templates WordPress offers with a critical eye. Don’t look for something that appeals to you; look for something that also tells your readers something about who you are as a writer and the type of books you write.

Next week, I’ll share a few other ways to personalize your blog. I hope you’ll join me for that discussion.

And if you have any questions about choosing the right theme option or doing customization, please ask them.

In the meantime, if you’re not already a subscriber, I encourage you to subscribe to Indie Plot Twist today. That’s the only sure way to never miss a post!

Oh, and check out Danielle’s Wednesday clinic on character development.

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